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Intellectual Property Services


Sarah has practiced patent law in Montana since 2002 and has worked on more than 170 patent applications and more than 70 have been issued. Sarah assists clients with conducting patent searches, preparing, and filing patent applications in the United States and internationally under the Patent Cooperation Treaty.  She can also assist with patent enforcement and licensing.  Below is a brief synopsis of various patents:


  • Utility Patents: Utility patents cover inventions for machines, articles of manufacture, methods, etc.  The invention is described with a written description and formal patent drawings and legally set-out by the claims submitted with the application.  In order to qualify for a utility patent the invention must be (1) new, (2) useful, and (3) non-obvious.  On average the application process takes around 3-5 years.  If granted, a utility patent has a term of 20 years from the date of filing.


  • Provisional Patent Applications: A provisional patent application is a precursor to a utility patent application.  The application is never examined and cannot become a patent on its own.  A provisional patent application provides the means to establish an early priority date (‘place in line’) for a lower cost and allows the term “Patent Pending” to be applied to the invention.  Within one year of the provisional patent application a utility patent application must be filed or the priority date will be lost.


  • Design Patents:  A design patent covers the ornamental appearance of a useful device, but not its function.  The ornamental appearance and features of a design must be shown clearly in a complete set of drawings submitted with the design patent application.  On average the design application process takes around 18-36 months.  If granted, a design patent is valid for 14 or 15 years from the date it is issued.  The duration of protection depends on the date it was filed.


  • Plant Patents:  A less common patent application protects inventions or discoveries of a new plant species. Similar to the utility patent, the plant patent has a duration of 20 years from the application filing date.


  • Patent Cooperation Treaty Utility Patent Applications:   For clients interested in pursuing patent rights outside the U.S., an international-type patent application called a PCT application (“PCT” stands for Patent Cooperation Treaty) may be filed.  A PCT application can be filed up to 12 months from the priority application’s filing date, and reserves the applicant’s right to enter over 150 countries that are members of the PCT.  The applicant eventually needs to apply for patents in each of the countries and regions where patent protection is desired.  This involves filing separate applications at the “national stage,” which occurs 30 or 31 months after the priority application’s filing date.


  • Hague Agreement International Design Applications:  In 2015, the U.S. signed onto the Hague Agreement which governs the international registration of industrial designs. First adopted in 1925, the Agreement effectively establishes an international system – the Hague System – that allows industrial designs to be protected in multiple countries or regions with minimal formalities.


Trademarks and Service Marks

Sarah is your Missoula Trademark Attorney. She has assisted with hundreds of trademark applications at the USPTO. She also provides services for Madrid System international trademark protection and helps facilitate international trademark applications in countries that are not a part of the Madrid System.


The strongest marks are comprised of words or designs that have no meaning or connection to your goods/services sold under the mark.  Some examples of this are NIKE®, KLEENEX®, or XEROX®.  However, we understand that having a brand that helps explain your products is beneficial to catch the customer's attention. We review potential marks and advise clients to steer away from impending refusals when possible.  The Trademark Office generally refuses marks for reasons such as:

  • Likelihood of confusion with a registered mark - the mark is too similar in view of the goods or services offered under the respective marks.

  • Mere Descriptiveness - the mark describes the product, purpose, ingredients, function or features.

  • Deceptive Descriptiveness - the mark misdescribes the product, purpose, function, etc., but is plausible.

  • Geographic Descriptiveness - the mark uses geographic identifiers, such as states, towns, streets, etc., in the mark.

  • Miscellaneous Reasons - the mark is a Surname for the goods/services; the mark is the name of a living person used without consent; the mark is obscene; the mark use the American flag, etc.


If you are foreign-domiciled, you are required to use a U.S.-licensed attorney to file your trademark-related submissions with the USPTO. This requirement also applies to all Canadian applicants, registrants, and parties.  As a U.S.-licensed attorney, Sarah J. Rhoades at Rhoades IP offers services to foreign-domiciled registrants including: filing the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) Plus application form, filing all application-related and registration-related TEAS submissions, and making submissions made on paper or made using the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s Electronic System for Trademark Trial and Appeals (ESTTA).  Please contact us if you require assistance with Trademark Trial and Appeal Board proceedings, trademark applications, trademark renewals, or responding to a Trademark office action.


Copyright law is important to individuals and businesses, as well as artists, photographers, musicians, and authors. Sarah helps all artists and authors determine a filing strategy to pursue for copyright registrations. She helps businesses ensure full ownership of the works used in their everyday business from packaging to websites.  


Sarah actively assesses, litigates, and negotiates copyright infringement matters. Individuals threatened with lawsuits for violations of copyright frequently utilize Sarah's representation to negotiate settlements or defend lawsuits.



Other Intellectual Property Matters

Nondisclosure agreements, also called confidentiality agreements are important tools used to protect intellectual property rights. Sarah assists clients during every phase, from prototype to licensing. She also helps with other intellectual property matters including implementing policies and procedures to safeguard trade secrets, evaluating infringement, or implementing enforcement actions.

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